Darryl Worley,
Hard Rain Don't Last
(Dreamworks, 2000)

I suppose being born and raised a few miles south of Nashville does not make me an expert in country music, but I certainly have heard my fair share. The circumstances of my birth being what they are, I figure it's nothing short of a blessing that I actually enjoy country music -- especially the older stuff with the feel of "real" about it. The music that welled up from the experiences of the people and reached out beyond the boundaries of culture, ethnicity and time.

Like all young Tennesseans at one time or another, I left country for a while, rebelling against the establishment. While I was gone, country became "popular" -- a bad thing for any honest musical form (look what it has done to rap, for example). With the "discovery" of country music came the experts to tell the bumpkins how to sell themselves. These sharks of sophistication brought in glitz and glamour and tried to strong-arm big hair and sequins out the back door; they urged the stars to don designer gowns and invade Hollywood like Ma and Pa Kettle gone to town. Worst of all, that smarmy little liaison with worldwide attention left a lot of bastard offspring who strove not to make country music or even to make good music, but crossover hits that had more to do with the pop charts than they did with people's lives and experiences.

Meanwhile, back in Nashville, we knew that the forces of rabid consumerism had used and abused our beloved music. We were about to abandon the genre as irretrievable when Ricky Scaggs and a few others brought hope back to town. Here was country music as it was meant to be, with dignity and integrity intact. There was a revival of sorts as, more and more, the older legends woke from their shocked stupor and joined forces to regain country from the panderers of pop. I give you this long introduction so when I say that Darryl Worley is not only talented, he's also a real country singer carrying on a proud tradition, you may understand that I know what I am talking about.

Darryl Worley has a name that even makes him sound like a country singer from Hardin County, Tennessee. Hardin County is in southwest Tennessee, right on the Alabama state line. That's Buford Pusser country for those of you who know your Southern trivia. The Battle of Shiloh was fought down that way during the War Between the States. Those folks have been used to hard living for a long time. According to Darryl, life can get real rough in his hometown, but it is real and has provided ample inspiration for his music. His lyrics are intelligent and intelligible, often witty and wise. The music accompanying them is strong and solid; it feels as good as it sounds -- and it sounds just fine. Darryl Worley's Hard Rain Don't Last is simple and real, country music as it is meant to be.

The first song is "A Good Day to Run," perfect for riding with the windows down and the music loud. The urge to hit the highway for a few days of worry-free adventuring is almost universal, especially for a person "about to choke on my own blue collar." It is attainable wish-fulfillment in a joyous romp of a song.

"Who's Gonna Get Me Over You?" switches the mood to the sad tale of a two-time loser in the game of love. The voice of the song is plaintive and sad. The music supports it while remaining understated. It is just short of a tearjerker, but emotionally powerful nevertheless. "Second Wind" is a song of lone meditation and reflection. What better setting for such a thing than on the ocean?

So far in this album, we have had joy, heartbreak and a plea for a time out. Worley's personal life may have been an emotional rollercoaster, but it translates well into his country lyrics.

"Hard Rain Don't Last" is strictly an original, but it evokes echoes of older music when people needed to encourage each other to hold on through the hard times of love and life. This is not to be interpreted as dated however; its message is timeless. And the music is good. What more could one ask for?

The Information Age can be overwhelming to anyone these days. Worley does a very clever job of restating the problem in "Too Many Pockets." Maybe there is something to be said for a simpler life sometimes if one can even remember when there were only three channels on the TV. Darryl's next song, "Those Less Fortunate Than I," deals with many contemporary issues facing America today, including the homeless, school violence and the spread of gang warfare. He confronts these issues in a caring and supportive fashion that does not waste time looking for a scapegoat, but shoulders the blame and looks for answers instead. The message is strong and is well-supported by lyrics and music that works with the words instead of overpowering them. "When You Need My Love" is a different kind of sad story that has its own little twist. In this sad story, it is the woman who is treating the man like a yo-yo emotionally. It is an interesting use of reverse sexism and just as well done as the other songs on the CD. The quality is uniform and sound.

You knew it was coming didn't you? How could there be a traditional country album without a honky-tonk song? Old Hank would roll over and sit up in his grave! Darryl continues not to disappoint with "Sideways," a real kick-up-your-heels-and-holler tune meant for dancing and feeling good to. It works on all counts.

"The Way Things Are" is a sad summing up of a life going wrong, perfect fodder for a country song. Again, Worley handles it with his own style and in his own voice. He manages the traditional without the trap of mawkish imitation. Work songs are not new either, but Worley draws a surprising correlation between day labor and working on a relationship. His song "Feels Like Work" is bright and energetic, perfect for this album.

"Is It Just Us?" is a sweet love ballad, full of hope and promise. Worley again illustrates his mastery of emotional manipulation by taking the listener from the point of dogged determination to salvage a relationship to the heights of great joy that comes with the discovery of new love. And luckily, he is able to put it all into a good, traditional format.

The last song, "If I Could Just Be Me," is a fine summation of one man's trip of self discovery and understanding. It serves to tie the entire album together in a most satisfying manner. We have been with Darryl during his trials and tribulations, or at least we feel as though we have, and this is good closure for this chapter of his musical and maybe mythical life.

Darryl Worley of West Tennessee is every bit as good as he looks and sounds. His music is not so much old-fashioned as it is traditional in nature. He should be around making fine sounds for a long, long time if there is any justice in the world. And here's to hoping that the only crossover he does is to Jordan at the end of a long and happy life.

[ by Debbie Gayle Rose ]

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